Last Sunday we concluded our five month study through the book of Joshua (you know, that book that is the 6th book in the Bible : ) ). It was in some ways the most challenging book that I have ever preached through - not because it isn’t filled with many wonderful teaching points, but because it is almost entirely a narrative, and narratives are hard to preach. Actually, to be more accurate, it is very difficult to teach application from a narrative text. The reason for this is fairly simple: narratives are stories, not exhortative statements, and therefore, although the story may be easy enough to understand, how that story applies to our own life is often times much more difficult to pinpoint. If one is not careful, it can be very easy to teach the story without demonstrating why the story matters. And so it was with the book of Joshua. However, as difficult as the task was at times, I found it incredibly rewarding. I can only hope and pray that it was as rewarding for all of you as the listening and discerning audience.
With this in mind, I would like to walk through a few application points from our Joshua series. Many of these you will have already picked up on your own, but here they are again in black and white as a short refresher for all of us.
1. God’s presence goes with us. This can be positive or negative. We can know the joy of his pleasure in our obedience or the disappointment of his displeasure in our disobedience. Either way, he is with us. Practice the presence of God in your life.
2. God’s call to us in response to his faithfulness and acts in our lives is not works based, but rather a call to faithfulness and love in return. Faithfulness includes works, but works do not create faithfulness, they merely demonstrate it. Faithfulness is born out of a heartfelt desire to please the Lord. Seek to be faithful.
3. When we set up reminders in our lives to keep the Lord’s grace and mercy and acts before us, faithfulness becomes part of our lives. We are called to remember, and to keep remembering, all that God has done for us. This is a “means” that God gives us to keep us faithful. Remember all that God has done for you.
4. Desire, if not checked, gives way to sin, and sin has consequences that create collateral damage in our lives and the lives of those in our community – particularly our families. “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” - John Owen
5. God works in mysterious ways. Often times those ways are counter-intuitive to the way we think he should work. Obedience to his call is paramount to blessing. When encamped on the western edge of the Jordan River, with backs against a river at flood stage and seven heavily armed nations before them, God called the Israelites to observe two sacraments that disabled the armed forces for days. A really bad military strategy, but really good at teaching dependence and obedience. Jesus said, “If you want to gain your life, you must lose it for my sake.” Counter-intuitive, but true nevertheless. “Trust and obey, for there’s no better way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” –John Sammis
7. God’s promises fulfilled in the lives of the people of Israel meant joy. He is the giver of good gifts. The Jews sought the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. They were not ashamed to do so, and they did not count it as pride, arrogance, or self-aggrandizing to seek the blessing at the appropriate time. As in all things, there is a Biblical balance here. Christ-followers are called to generosity and self-sacrifice in their proper context as well. It is safe to say, however - enjoy God, enjoy life, enjoy God’s blessings. It is good to be happy and to rejoice in all that God has given you.
8. God is a God of justice and order. We also are called to practice justice and order. Be careful in passing judgment, offer grace and mercy, and put things in order in your own life. Do not acquit the guilty nor condemn the innocent.
9. Joshua was quick to remind Israel that God is a God who is marked by holiness. He will not share his glory with any other god, not even a god made in our own image that we declare to be the true God. We must count the cost before declaring ourselves for him. A life lived for Christ is the best life, but not the easiest life. God has never promised us an easy life, and Jesus was a living example of that reality. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
May the Lord’s blessings go with you as you seek to put these principles into practice.
Grace and peace,